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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

2008 Max Baucucs Re-Election Primary Campaign

Following up on the post from a couple of days ago on the potential for Montana Senator Max Baucus to be primaried, I want to make clear that it doesn't have to happen. For example, if Baucus were to be integral to the 2006 efforst of Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen, and MDLCC then he may very well prove himself to be indespensible.

This would be the smartest move for Baucus. Maybe he should go sit down for lunch with Senator Lieberman and learn how post-broadcast politics and inspiration and blogs are taking down Lieberman's reputation and maybe even career. Baucus could accept that politics has changed and realize that the best way to help himself in 2008 is to help Montana Democrats in 2006.

Unfortunately, Baucus has a long history of local politics where his campaign wins at the expense of the Democratic Party. This will not work in 2006 and could help seal his fate in 2008. In the past, this sort of BS from Baucus didn't have a vehicle like the internet to ensure that everyone knows about it. In the past, many who did know bitched in private because before Schweitzer came along Baucus was the top Democrat for a long time.

I hope Baucus gets with the program this cycle, because it will be too late to get with the program after this cycle. If Baucus doesn't help out and Democrats lose, I'm sure that the blogs will spend plenty of pixels assigning Baucus the blame. If he doesn't help out and Democrats win, it will be clear that Baucus isn't needed politically and then it comes down to policy.

Policy is the last thing Baucus wants to talk about in a Democratic Party primary. Chris Bowers says:

Here is some history on Max Baucus: When the chips are down, and it is time for all those who are not complicit with the radical conservative agenda in this country to be counted, almost every single time Max Baucus has chosen not to be counted. On the majority of the most egregiously foul pieces of Bush-led legislation over the past four years, Max Baucus has been complicit with the incompetence, deception, and destructive force that is modern conservatism (otherwise known as whatever George Bush did today). He only came back into line on Social Security after extensively cajoling. Today, he has outdone himself, by undercutting his own caucus leader by stating he would vote to confirm Roberts only hours after Harry Reid said he would not.
And the American Prospect did an entire story on Baucus:

Among the defectors, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) has tended to attract the lion's share of media attention for his florid denunciations of his ostensible party. But the practical effects of Miller's histrionics have been rather limited compared with the betrayals of his more low-key colleague Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). As the ranking member (and, for a period, chairman) of the Finance Committee, arguably the Senate's most powerful, Baucus, who underwent successful brain surgery on Jan. 9, has not only voted for many pieces of Republican-backed legislation but actually taken the lead in authoring much of the president's domestic-policy agenda. During the 2001 tax-cut debate, Baucus cut a deal with committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the White House to co-sponsor a slightly watered-down version of the president's proposal. In doing so, he not only gave the GOP his vote but, more importantly, his support for the tax cut effectively handed the White House the staff and other committee resources under his control.

Fellow Democrats were even more aggrieved, however, by Baucus' behavior during the Medicare battle with which Congress closed last year's session. The Senate initially passed a compromise bill with support from Republicans and some liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), while the House put forward a much more partisan piece of legislation on a narrow vote. A conference committee composed of members of both chambers was convened, but the Republican leadership, in a sharp break from precedent, said that though Democrats could be officially appointed to the committee, none would be invited to the meetings where the substantive negotiations would take place and the actual bill be written. None, that is, except for Baucus and the similarly cooperative John Breaux of Louisiana, who will retire at the end of the year.

By lending this farce a veneer of bipartisan credibility, Baucus and Breaux essentially denied the Democrats what was not only their best chance of defeating the bill in question but the party's last hope of putting a stop to a long string of Republican provocations aimed at reducing the minority party to window-dressing status.

Montanas who hate the new Medicare law, thank Max Baucus.

Many Democrats, moreover, regard Baucus' heresies as simply the price that must be paid to keep his Montana Senate seat out of Republican hands. One Senate staffer who worked against the Medicare bill said she was "resigned" to such behavior as long as the GOP has the ability to set the agenda; senators, after all, don't dare oppose the initiatives of a president who remains popular in their home states.

The excuse suffers from a near total lack of supporting evidence. A Dec. 8-10 poll by the Billings Gazette revealed that an underwhelming 41 percent of Montanans approve of the new law -- more, to be sure, than the 30 percent who disapprove, but hardly a force a popular incumbent is incapable of resisting. The vote came, moreover, at a time when Baucus would not need to face the voters again for nearly five years, hardly a moment that demands a tactical shift to the right.

Pat Williams, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1997 with what he calls a "western-liberal voting record," agrees that nothing in the state precludes a less conservative Democratic Party. "I was elected more consecutive times to the House than anyone in the history of Montana," he says. "To me that always demonstrated that a Democrat does not have to masquerade as a Republican in Montana."


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